ITC – Immunity To Change – The Initial Frontier to Adopting an Agile Methodology

ITC – Immunity To Change – The Initial Frontier to Adopting an Agile Methodology

As you might already know, Agile is a set of values (4) and principles (12) which helps in the adoption and maintenance of an Agile methodology. It also helps enhance the quality and delivered value by incorporating continuous improvement in all areas. For example, the adoption of TDD, automated unit testing, BDD and clean code practices allow the teams to incorporate quality and value in their iterative development cycles.
The previous practices have proven to be valuable for organizations that have harnessed their potential, but few how managed to reap the promised rewards of Agile implementations. Why?One of the main reasons is a recurring obstacle that has hindered organizations’ abilities to fully incorporate Agile practices in their daily routines. – Immunity to change (ITC).

ITC is a term coined by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. It is the difficulty in adopting change in culture, habits and values at an individual, team and organization scope.
As of Dec. 2015 there have been more discussions, blogs and articles written on this subject than any other aspect of Agile. Yet, organizations, teams and individuals are quick to dismiss that this is a problem within their Agile adoption. People are simply not ready to be vulnerable and admit to having difficulty with changing their habits, let alone their culture and mindset.

As an Agile coach I have witnessed ITC in every instance of Agile adoption I have worked with. Why is this? The reason is fairly simple; ITC is present in all of us to certain degrees and at different levels. A strong ITC at any level of the organization will definitely render any Agile adoption difficult.
Accompanying a group of Agile coaches for a round at the local pub can be quite a revealing experience. Stories of ITC at individual, team and organization levels abound. Most of the comments and observations involve middle management’s struggles in adopting an Agile mindset.

ITC in middle management is very present and this can be explained by the fact that we are literally asking them to go against what they have been taught to do for so many years, which is to manage things and resources. For that reason alone I believe Agile adoption to be more difficult for middle managers than other members of the organization. So they may need to be supported and accompanied with as much compassion and attention as other individuals.

So what can be done to reduce the negative impact of ITC in your organization’s adoption of Agile?

  • Clearly identify your organization’s intention in adopting an Agile methodology, culture and mindset
  • Ensure the intention is aligned with the Agile values.
  • Communicate the intention and values to the teams and individuals.
  • Create a support team for the transformation. Ideally experienced Agile coaches. A mix of technical and transformational coaches is ideal as they will cover all aspects of the transformation including ITC.
  • Prioritize continuous improvement as much as BAU activities.
  • Get informed on ITC (I strongly suggest buying Daniel Goleman’s book “Immunity To Change”)
  • Identify areas where ITC is present, including yourself.
  • Be there for the teams and individuals that have difficulty with ITC.
  • Encourage autonomy through trust, transparency and responsible delegation.

Marc-Andre Langlais

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